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Gonzales pressed death penalty against prosecutor advice: former US Attorney

[JURIST] Former US Attorney Paul K. Charlton [Wikipedia profile] testified [transcript] before the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution Wednesday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] did not give enough consideration to the quality of evidence or the recommendations of the US Attorney and prosecutors involved in a case when pushing for the use of the death penalty in federal cases. Charlton, one of the former US Attorneys involved in the current firings controversy [JURIST news archive], described a case where the Department of Justice simultaneously refused to exhume the body of an alleged victim from a landfill to provide forensic evidence while Gonzales pushed for the death penalty despite the objections of Carlton and his prosecutors due to the case's reliance on testimonial evidence obtained through guilty pleas. Charlton added that it was "wrong for the government to both seek the death penalty and at the same time refuse to provide funds to obtain evidence that could prove a vital link in supporting or negating its position."

In April, Gonzales testified [JURIST report] that Charlton had used "poor judgment in pushing forward a recommendation on a death penalty case," and internal DOJ memos justified Charlton's firing on the grounds that he repeatedly challenged and disobeyed authority. In March, USA Today reported that Charlton was among the top 10 US Attorneys [USA Today report] in terms of convictions secured. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that Charlton had initiated a corruption investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) [official website], which the DOJ allegedly delayed [WSJ report] until after November 2006 midterm elections. The Washington Post has more.

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